Never Too Late, Group Home for Boys in Foster Care

What if it were never too late for a child to find hope, to find healing, to find love, to find family?

Photo of John DeGarmo
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Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Like so many others, my wife and I felt called to help children. After the death of my first child, both my wife and I were devastated. Years later, with three biological children, plus three adopted, we felt called to help children in need, children who are suffering. After 50+ foster children in our home the past 13 years, we feel called to help even more children in need, as we dedicate our lives to helping as many children in foster care as we possibly can.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Georgia

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Georgia

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Monticello, Milledgeville, Eatonton, Madison, Conyers, Covington, Macon, Jackson, Atlanta, and all of the state of Georgia.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Abused. Beaten. Neglected. Starved. Abandoned. Children placed into foster care. At any given day, there are over 450,000 children placed in foster care in the United States. Each of these children has suffered immeasurable hurt, and unspeakable horrors from those who were supposed to love them the most. Never Too Late will help those boys, ages 9-18, who can not find a foster care home, and who need therapy, hope, and love.

Never Too Late is designed to hold up to 16 boys from foster care at a time, children who are emotionally fragile, children who are confused and afraid, children who need a loving environment.  This 14 bedroom facility will provide the security these children need, as well as a loving and stable home that will help in their healing.  Led by trained staff by Dr. John DeGarmo, children between the ages of 9 and 18 will have access to:

-Counseling and behavior interventions.

-A homelike session with nutritious meals.

-Development of individual educational plans, focusing on the learning needs of each child.

-Clothing and personal hygiene.

-Transportation to and from schools, as well as to cultural, musical, recreational, and educational events, including fishing, picnics, and camping, to name a few.

-Mentors for each child.

-Encouragement and support from the local churches and community.

-Prepare youth with living skills, financial understanding, job preparation, and other skills necessary before becoming an adult and aging out of foster care system.

The following represent the Never Too Late Goals:

 To meet the physical needs of at risk youth by providing safety, shelter, proper nourishment, opportunity for exercise, clothing and by ensuring access to medical and dental health care.

 To meet the emotional needs of at risk youth by providing support, empathy, mentoring (by adults), encouragement and therapy, including psychiatric care when needed.

To meet the educational needs of at risk youth by developing and improving good study skills and academic performance.  Reading and math skills will be an important part of each youth’s development.

 To meet the social needs of at risk youth by providing diverse opportunities to practice social interactions, providing diverse indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities, and providing mentoring, and coaching. Also by building emotional management skills, communication skills and conflict resolution skills and by teaching about healthy interpersonal relationships including healthy and safe sexual practices.

To meet the intellectual and educational needs of at risk youth through mentoring, appropriate educational assessment and planning including college, tutoring, supporting interests, and exposure to creative and performing arts. 

To meet the independent living skills needs of at risk youth by teaching independent and daily living skills and independent living skills through the daily program routine and independent living skills (ILS) classes, and through referrals to other vocational rehabilitation and employment training and internship opportunities.

 To meet the spiritual needs of at risk youth by providing them freedom to explore and practice spirituality of choice and means to connect with a chosen spiritual group.

 To maintain youth placements and/or successfully transition youth to their identified discharge destination.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

Boys from the foster care system ages 9-18 who are up for adoption, and/or suffer from severe abuse.

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Idea (poised to launch)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Never Too Late will focus on a wide range of therapies for boys in foster care, as well as 100% graduation rate from high school, teach important living and social skills, help boys learn to work in the community and with others, and most importantly, embrace these children in need with unconditional love, as we bring hope, bring healing, and bring a sense of family to these boys before they age out of the foster care system. Even more, after they leave Never Too Late, they will always have a place to return to; a home that they can call family. The statistics are grim for youth who age out of foster care. 55% drop out of school. 65% end up homeless, 75% end up in jail. Never Too Late will help to break these statistics.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

With the help of members from communities in several counties throughout Georgia, as well as churches across the state, Never Too Late has raised over $250,000.00, as we not only focus on paying off the debt of the purchase of this former nursing home, but also work on renovating the home. It has been highly inspiring to see so many throughout communities, including state politicians, come together in support. Not every one can be a foster parent, yet every one can help a child in foster care in some way. Never Too Late is also designed to bring together people from all walks of life, as we strive to help children in need, children in foster care.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $500k - $1m

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

67% of annual funding will come from the state's child welfare department. The additional 33% will come from grants, fund raising campaigns, partnerships with organizations, support from churches and from contributions and donations from private individuals. Grant writers are currently working on obtaining grants, and a capital campaign is working on raising money for needed renovations at this time.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

In truth, so few are willing to help. In the state of GA, as it is in all states, as there are not enough homes for thousands children in foster care. Taking 14 years experience as a foster parent, plus my knowledge from years of intense research and writing, I am driven to bring to children in foster care a place where they can truly find hope, find healing, find unconditional love. Never Too Late will break the cycle for foster children, and provide them life long resources. At the same time, the home will raise awareness to communities, as well as bring them together to help children .

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

There seems to be more awareness of the foster care system, and on children in foster care. Today's church seems poised to take these 450,000 children in foster care as the next great mission field. More books, tv shows, and movies feature themes and information about children in foster care. Indeed, I have dedicated my life, and my writings in both The Huffington Post and my several books on how society can help children in foster care without being foster parents. Awareness and advocacy are key.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Twitter

Community Leadership

I am always looking for suggestions on how to make Never Too Late the best home possible for boys in need, as well as how to make it a national model for residential homes for boys in foster care. Each comment, each bit of feedback helps to strengthen this home, and this model.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 12+

Spread Strategies

As one who travels the nation training foster parents, I embrace each new contact I meet as an opportunity to learn from. I look forward to meeting others during this process in order to not only learn from them and share resources, but also the possibility of encouraging others to help support Never Too Late and help change the lives of boys in need. Together, we can bring hope and healing to those who have none.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Led by trained staff by Dr. John DeGarmo, children between the ages of 9 and 18 will have access to: Counseling/behavior interventions. A home with nutritious meals. Development of individual educational plans, focusing on the learning needs of child. Clothing/personal hygiene. Transportation to/from schools, as well as to cultural, musical, recreational, and educational events. Prepare youth with living skills, financial understanding, etc

Leadership Story

After I became a foster parent, I gained my doctorate degree with a focus on children in foster care. Several books later, and years of traveling the nation, delivering key note addresses and training seminars about all things foster care, I have dedicated my entire life to three areas. First, helping children in foster care. Second, helping foster parents. Third, bringing awareness to the general public and society about what foster care and foster parenting truly is.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Dr. DeGarmo and his wife have been awarded the Up With People Everyday Hero Award in 2015. He and his wife are also the first Co-Citizens of the Year award for their town in 2016. Also, features on Good Morning America and Nightline about Never Too Late, as well as our family.

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 20%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 60%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 20%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 20%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 0%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 80%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 60%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 40%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 20%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 0%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 40%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 40%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 100%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 50%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 50%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Melanie Gilbert


You did it!
Congratulations on being a Changemaker Pioneer for children's wellbeing in foster care. Our agenda is well represented in the semi-finalist ranks.

Looking forward to taking these next steps with you and the other foster care advocates.


Photo of Brittany Lothe

You are a catalyst for change, John - I wish you the best of luck as your launch

Photo of Maud Schaafsma

John and Kelly
This is an amazing reallocation of use of a nursing home into essentially a new conception of an orphanage for boys 9-18 who are displaced from families and possibly from the state foster care system. You are obviously charismatic pioneers for children's well-being - with a vision and commitment to "never give up" on children/adolescents. Your commitment to these kids brings to mind work Molly Baldwin has done in creating jobs for disengaged young adults in Boston at Roca. [].  You might learn some interesting things from her model - that has been tremendously successful. The population of high school dropouts and gang members she serves are older than the group of boys you propose to house and care for. But you might get some ideas of what it takes to work with displaced and disengaged young men.

I think there are 2 under-developed parts of this very interesting proposal - one is about neuro-biological effects of trauma - the other is about jobs for older boys.  If you are going to house and create a family for kids who have experienced high levels of toxic stress - you need to have a well conceived plan for discipline of children that is grounded in knowledge about the impacts on children's brains, emotions, behavior when they are exposed to poverty, trauma, violence.  I read a spot on your blog about basic issues of brain structure - you can add to this information for foster parents by developing a deeper more complex understanding of the pediatric neurobiology of toxic stress.  A good place to start to learn accurate information - there are several papers on this issue written by Jack Shonkoff at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child  []. I think you will be interested in his work. You may also want to read Paul Tough's new book Helping Children Succeed (2016),  he lays out this research in very accessible language.

2nd for older boys I think you need an organized plan to assist them in finding/creating jobs. Molly Baldwin's work at Roca can be a model for this activity. You need to convince community-based employers that high risk adolescent boys can be trusted to do good work. She organizes young adults in teams of 7.  You can create smaller teams with younger boys. They work with a paid staff member from Roca to ensure that they are there on time, apply themselves to the tasks and do not create work (shirking) or inter-personal problems in the workplace. Baldwin has gotten very large ($25 mil) grants from the State of Mass Dept. of Labor to expand her program. The GA Dept. of Labor might make (more modest) investment in your employment program. It is expensive but you are creating life-time and life-saving habits that are essential for the young men to become self-supporting. As Molly and Roca say "less jail, more future."  I think you need to develop the data on long-term costs to the public that you can avoided by making costly investments in these boys at age 9-18.  This kind of program content can make your proposed housing and care project unique, grounded in what we know works and fundable by foundations.